Talking to strangers can be intimidating, stressful, and downright scary. And networking? Don’t even get me started on the elevator pitch. How am I supposed to know what I want to do with my life, let alone what to ask random people to further that goal?!
As we get older, we’re expected to have an idea about what we want to do after college. With so many options, it might seem like finding the right one would be easy. But how do we figure that out? And what is that job is actually like?
The solution: The Meliora Collective
As a confused sophomore prone to overthinking and existential crises about my future, the Meliora Collective has been my savior. The Meliora Collective is a platform that allows U of R affiliates (current undergraduates, graduate students, alumni, professors and staff) to communicate with each other about career questions and decisions. If you’re curious about a profession or field, deciding between medical or graduate school, or want to know what working for a certain company is like, the Meliora Collective can connect you with the right person. You can then request an informational interview with that person, where you chat briefly to learn about their experiences.
The website also allows you to search for members by a variety of factors like a particular discussion topic, student organizations they are/were involved in, and even their race. These features can make it much easier to start a conversation or help you narrow down what you want to know.
My journey with the Meliora Collective started by just figuring out what academic discipline I want to study. I came to the U of R as a neuroscience major, convinced that my brief introduction to brain cells was indicative of an interest in neuroscience. And my latest Meliora Collective interview helped me figure out whether I wanted to go to graduate school or medical school. Through every single informational interview, I’ve learned something and have gained insight I otherwise wouldn’t have.
So, how do you request an informational interview and what should it look like?
Make it short
Remember that these people also have lives of their own, and may not have the time to respond as promptly or talk or for as long as you may want. Any information is good information! I suggest requesting a 15-minute conversation – enough for a cup of coffee, or a short phone call.
Explain why you’re reaching out
Figure out what you want to know! If you’re curious about what their job is like, want a resume review from someone in the industry, or just want advice about how to find a work-life balance, make sure that’s clear. Using the ‘discussion topic’ search feature can be useful to find people who are open to talking about what you want.
Prepare questions before hand
Before you start your informational interview, make sure to have some questions prepared. This helps show interest in the person you’re interviewing and can help direct the conversation the way you want it to go. This way, you’re getting the information you reached out for!
This can be a bit awkward if you’re meeting in person. I suggest bringing an actual notepad/pencil. Then your interviewee doesn’t feel like you’re distracted on your phone, and you can remember what you talked about. If you’re just having a phone call, an electronic form of note-taking works just as well – though maybe mention why you’re clacking away on the keyboard!
Don’t forget this! They took time out of their schedule to help you with your questions/concerns so make sure to thank them at the end of the conversation. Bonus points if you send a follow-up email thanking them for their time.
Keep in touch and Action Steps
Now it’s time to put the information you gained to use. Follow yp on any advice they gave and look into any programs/resources they may have provided. If you have any questions while doing your research, reaching out again is a great way to stay connected.
As U of R affiliates, the people on the Meliora Collective love helping their fellow yellowjackets as best they can. While career decisions can be extremely stressful, networking can seriously mitigate navigating the haze of uncertainty that surrounds our futures.
And, as with anything, practice makes perfect! The more you reach out, the easier it will become and the better you’ll be at having useful and directing conversations to guide your career decisions. So, take the first step and sign in to The Meliora Collective today!